On Losing What I Never Had

We found out back in May that baby #3 is a girl. Just like when we found out about Layla, we videoed the opening of The Envelope with this baby as well. Unlike with Layla, we decided not to publish it. I'm going to tell you why.

WARNING: Where my heart was during this is such a hard and complex and delicate thing to describe without feeling like an ungrateful bitch (hello? you have a healthy baby growing miraculously inside you!) or some medieval jerk chauvinist who only wants to produce male heirs to ensure the purity of the Tudor line. So if you're feeling angry at me, or like you need to tell me to shut up because some women would kill for ANY baby, please just pause and give me some grace and know that I've felt that way about myself already, and turns out it's basically just piling on more poison.

If you havent had this same experience (or have walked a path that would make this struggle seem like a joy to you), I totally see how it could be hard to understand how I was feeling, but please go ahead and assume I am a pretty grateful and loving mom and a general non-asshole, and would cry right there with you if I knew your stuff.  I am praying no one goes to the place of "how dare she struggle with this when...[fill in the blank with something 'worse' that someone else deals with]."  When we compare or one-up someone's pain or attempt to shame them for even feeling it in the first place we are being incredibly immature and unchristlike. When has that ever worked? At best the struggle isnt gone, it's just shut up or stuffed into the darkness. Let's let people be where they are! Your tough stuff doesnt offend me because it's about you, not me. Ditto for mine: it's not trying to beat yours or even play on the same ballfield; I just want to be open about where I am. CAN YOU TELL I'M NERVOUS TO SHARE!?!

Here goes.

For months, rather predictably, Layla had said it was a girl and Judah had said it was a boy. But neither seemed obsessed either way. Layla was characteristically kind of blase about the whole thing and just breezily certain that she was right (what an enjoyable outlook!). Judah also didnt seem to have his heart completely and utterly set on a brother, but did say a few things that maybe should have tipped us off that a surprise/ambush reveal like this wasnt the best idea for him (including praying to Jesus to "make the baby a boy"). 

When the four of us left the office after the ultrasound, we got in the car, turned on the camera and opened the envelope to find GIRL!!! Jesse and I immediately turned around to see the kids' reactions for ourselves. Layla was smiling and be-bopping around. Judah sort of looked frozen...maybe a little confused and angry.

And then he roared. Loudly. Which was weird but, whatever.  And then the poor little guy broke down crying. 

I know that videos like this where the boys all want a brother and the parents say they're having a sister and they all freak out and start bawling have straight up won monies for how hilarious they are, but in that moment, as it was happening to us, nothing was less funny. My heart was breaking for my son AND for the new baby that he seemed to be rejecting on really unfair grounds.

On top of this, I am processing my own reaction.  I had completely expected it to be a boy, so I was just downright floored on my own, but when the extra mix of Judah's emotions got thrown in on top of my shock and hormones and the buildup of the entire morning/pregnancy to this moment (and some as-yet-unconfessed feelings), I started crying right there with him.

Poor, bewildered Jesse sitting in the middle of this whack-storm.

AAAAAAND CUT! That charming home movie is complete. Call Bob Saget.

One aspect of this is what I described back before we ever found out. For those first 4 months, the baby is BOTH sexes in your mind. You get to walk out your weird little parent dreams for 2 different kids: a boy AND a girl because both possibilities are 100% alive in your heart and mind. You are mentally having twins and everything you imagine has a boy version and a girl version because both versions are equally real and possible.

Therefore, when we found out that the baby is a girl--has always been a girl--it was like the little imaginary boy version from our minds had been lost. Yes, he never really existed, but it still feels like something of a loss.

Usually (for us), the loss of this phantom other-version of our baby is overwhelmed by the hooray! and solidifying of the ACTUAL baby. With Judah I was one million percent dying for a boy and that's what we had, so I almost didnt even feel the loss of "but what if it had been a girl?" because I was crazy pumped (thank you, Lord for not pulling a gender uber-surprise on a much-less-mature-than-now 26 year old Keight who would not have handled that gracefully):

December 2008. Leaving the OB after our gender ultrasound.

When we found out about Layla, we were so freaking out of our minds surprised and giddy and HOLY CRAP A GIRL! That we just acted like lunatics.

June 2010 

But later on, there was a twinge of sadness to realize this meant Judah would never get a brother who was incredibly close in age. It was a very distant sadness because of how jacked out of our minds we were about being girl parents, and it almost didnt even register since Judah was barely a year old when we found out and had no clue what was going on anyway.

But yeah, this one was different and way more complicated with older siblings involved (you want EVERYTHING for ALL OF THEM!) and with my own garbage lurking in the shadows. If i could go back and do it again, first off, I would have had me and Jesse find out first and then strategize how to tell each kid. Layla was obviously easy (and i am pretty sure would have been no matter what the outcome, she just wants dat bae), but Judah is VERY emotionally sensitive, VERY competitive (he said something like "Layla won" through his initial tearful reaction), and doesnt love when emotional situations are sprung on him. 

On top of that,  I had said that I didnt care what this child was, but looking back, I know I wasn't being honest with myself. I had wanted a boy this time. Not so much that I wouldnt be excited for a girl, but enough that I would probably need some time to work through it, and definitely enough that Judah's gut reaction could set off and expose some ugly stuff hiding in me.

Here's my stuff:

I did NOT have a great relationship with my mom growing up. Jesus has done some beautiful restoration in both of us since I've been an adult and things are WAAAAAY better, but I have always feared girls because of how hard I know my mom tried to have a great mother/daughter bond with me and how heartbreaking it was for her to not really ever get it. I figured, with just one girl--Layla--I could throw all my "make a healthy mother-daughter relationship work!" eggs into one basket. So finding out that I am going to be forging this relationship with DOUBLE THE HUMANS was a little overwhelming and scary for me. Twice the chance for total annihilation!

In addition, I only ever had a brother. The whole sisterhood thing has always been a super weird mystery of foreign WTF to me. I can remember as a teen asking some of my closest friends who had sisters to try to explain to me what that whole shebang was about, because I just didnt get it (I would also ask my black friends to explain how their hair works and come away just as clueless). So the thought of mothering a sisterhood (most estrogen-charged phrase I've ever typed) was incredibly intimidating.

In the end I think it came down to bigtime insecurity that I was afraid to own. I would much rather have the majority of my children have Jesse as their role model of what kind of adult to be rather than myself. Will my daughters be like their father? OH HELLS YES (and little Judah man has plenty of mommy up in there too), but as far as learning what it means to be a man/woman, you tend to learn that from your same-gender parent, and I generally think Jesse is a way better man than I am a woman. I hear the lie that I just kind of lucked out with Layla so far because she is a little wild raspberry of awesome good-naturedness and has gravitated towards me from the get-go, but there was no way that two girls in a row could actually feel that way (or even that Layla will continue to!).

I took a lot of these initial feelings to some of my closest friends who I knew I was safe with; even with these tricky, ugly thoughts going on, they would still love me. (WO)Man alive, they were water and life for me! They all said they could understand where I was coming from and assured me I wasnt a mommy-monster who would eat her young.  The ones who have sisters talked about how special that bond is. I heard them say how special it is to have the mother-plus-daughterS dynamic within a family.  They encouraged me about my worth as a woman and as a role model for women.

That very day, I went to Target by myself to look at tiny girly things to help me get in the mood, and I just so happened to run into a close friend who just had her 3 child--and second girl- a few months ago and who I had weirdly yet to meet. It was perfect and seeing that baby was just the sweetest happiest little wake up call I could have asked for! I came home from that entire complicated day with 2 tiny girly onesies and a growing positivity for what was to come. 

The final thing that brought me solidly out of any disappointment whatsoever and into peace and full-blown excitement for how this specific little girl is going to bless our family came as I remembered the last bible study my girl's group (girls group...not a coincidence) had done. There was an exercise where you had to list the times God hadn't given you what you wanted or what you thought would be best for you. There was an overwhelming chorus of THANK GOODNESS I DIDNT GET WHAT I WANTED from all of us! 

Whether it was unreturned crushes (in a room of girls, there were lots of examples of these!), jobs lost, opportunities that fell through, our biggest takeaway was, "I wish I was better at trusting Him when I'm not getting what I want, while it's still hard." Because almost all of these "disappointments" have led to things that were much better, deeper, healthier, and God-glorifying than those that we would chosen ourselves. How much more joy could there be and heartache skipped if we learned to FIRST exercise the faith of "okay God, what you have will be better for me. I'm just believing that even though right now seems very NOT."

When I remembered how this study had obviously been preparing my heart for this exact bit of news, the last of my baby-boy-blues disappeared. I decided to just go for it and skip the crying over the boy I didnt get (a familiar refrain to my teenage self in a new form!) and to faith-jump headfirst into a gift that I wasn't totally sure of in the moment, but that I trusted would not disappoint and would likely blow away my expectations.

(Yes, I get it. Big whoop that I trusted that I would love my own child. This "feat" doesnt quite get me into the Faith Hall of Fame. It might earn me a few eye-rolls to even claim that it took "faith" to get me to a place of excitement about my own cherished baby. I am in no way trying to minimize or poo-poo what a miracle and blessing having ANY baby EVER is. And I definitely not comparing my painful stuff to anyone else's. Please just remember that I can only be where I am, and that even sharing these feelings is SCARY AND VULNERABLE!)

It's been two months since this charming maelstrom of THE FEELS, and man, it has been awesome. My love for this baby as MY DAUGHTER has grown beyond what I thought I was capable of.  Almost as wonderful has been the confidence that trusting Jesus' plan for me and tiny-lady has exposed and eradicated any seeds of bitterness, rejection, or disappointment that I know satan would have loved to have taken root in my heart before she was even born. I love that she is going to come into the world to parents who have already fought for their relationship with her.

Bring on the GIRLS!!


  1. Oh sweet momma. I cannot tell you how very real this post feels to me! You are so brave to share. (and rewatching the video of Layla's gender reveal made me sob - THANKS A LOT.) I felt this way more so with Mac (because I wanted B to have a sister close in age) but then I did want another boy (because I wanted Mac to have a brother close in age). Shortly before Evyn's ultrasound I was like "WAIT, NO! Mac has to be my only baby boy!!!!!" And, for now (bwahahah - for forever more than likely) he is my one special boy and I wouldn't have it any other way. And Evyn, even being a girl (and even being almost 2 and sneaking up on the toddler/drama/hell phase) is so laid back and loving and snuggly - I think #3 just takes and appreciates whatever attention they can get! And the two girls still have such a close bond despite their 3.5 year age difference. All that rambling to say - I know how you feel, and it's important to feel all the feels! And (duh, you know this) you'll look back and be like "Of course it was you all along, and I wouldn't ever change a thing!" xoxoxoxoxxo

  2. After 10 years of marriage, we still have no children, not sure if we can at this point. I mean, we could. We can adopt. Or foster. Or go expensive medical routes. So, yes, I have my own struggles that can cloud my happiness for others at times. However, I've also gained a sense of "I-dont-have-it-as-bad-as-others" and that God has a bigger and better plan for us. DUH. Why is that so hard for us to accept? Fact: We all have our OWN struggles. No one can own them but us. And life is hard. Plain and simple. Buts its also amazing. And I have an amazing husband that I've been able to have an ongoing bestfriend slumber party with for the last 10 years (well on October 2nd it will be 10 yrs.) Its ok to own your struggle and to share it. I felt I needed to share mine to have those around me understand a little more about who I am and also to curb all the "when-ya-gonna-pop-out-babies" questions that I've received for the last decade. I know it helped me to get it all out in the open and own it. http://thatssewblake.blogspot.com/2012/08/havin-babies.html You go GIRLS.

  3. I needed to see this!!! WOW! We just had our ultrasound yesterday for a our second child and found out it's a girl! I have a 2 1/2 year old son, I just figured this would be a boy. And I was good with that, good with my son having a brother, good with being a boy mom, good with not paying for a wedding :) I'm still in a state of shock and trying to figure it all out. I want to be so excited about a little girl but yes I'm missing that little boy I had in mind. I of course love her so much and I'm so very grateful for her, we have been trying since we had our son to get pregnant again. But...
    Any way thank you for posting this and for being so honest! I needed to see this today!!

  4. I am a few weeks behind you, and pregnant with boy #3. The day we had our gender reveal I sat there and silently cried waiting for the OB for over an hour. I was trying to read the magazine in front of me and of course I turned to an article about mothers in law and the relationship with the wives of their sons.... totally made me cry even more. My poor husband. I didn't cry for the fact that the baby was a boy, but more for the fact that this is my last. I don't care to be pregnant ever again.... I love and cherish the baby inside, but not so much the heartburn, hormones and constipation! :) So I was sad for the girl I would never have.... naturally that is. And maybe that is His plan for my family?.... maybe there is a girl waiting for us or one who hasn't even been created yet?
    But I have loved seeing the bond of these brothers... they are incredibly good boys and total mamas boys!!! ( I think it's just the boobs! :) And I am super excited to see this next little sweetie just fit right in. But it definitely took the process of letting my idea of a girl go and that's ok... healthy in fact, maybe even necessary to move on with our emotions.
    Super excited for you all. What a responsibility for Judah to be the big brother of 2 sisters!! What an awesome example he will be to them and protector. He will thrive in that role I am sure!

  5. Girl. Thank you for your honesty. I don't have kids yet but I've always been pretty vocal about needing to find out as early as possible when I have kids what I'm having because I have my heart and soul set on being a girl-mom only. Everyone always tells me "Oh, you won't care when you find out, you will be so excited to just know!" I'm sure I will but I get bummed when people seem to be dismissive of how I will feel if I find out I'm having a son. Will I love him? Of course! But will I be disappointed? Probably. And then I'll realize, like you, my awesome internet pal, that God is amazing regardless of how our expectations and disappointments pan out!

  6. http://weightylife.blogspot.com/2011/02/sweet-coraline-whoa-whoa-whoa.html

  7. I love to read your blog because your mix of humor, truth, and vulnerability seems so easy to relate to. Your post suggests that you've already had some dear friends share the joys of having sisters, but for what it's worth from a stranger (with 3 sisters and no brothers), I second that comment entirely! I don't know where I'd be without my sisters and their support. It's this unspoken and easy sense of community and trust through the highs and lows of life.
    Thanks for sharing!

  8. So so relate! Had the third babe 3 months ago. A boy after two girls. We were hoping for a boy. But I was so sad to be done with the sweet girl clothes that have so many memories of my 'big' girls attached. My olsest (Layla) is 5 and was so glad she was right. She always thought we were having a boy. She was crying happy tears! Little sis (Nora) is three and a half and wasn't upset at all that she had guessed wron. Had Liam Dean been a girl named Alma Louise we would have had the same reaction Judah had. Long story short... You're so not alone!!

  9. I love that you shared this - so many mamas can relate! I think it takes a bit of time to wrap our minds around any change in our family, no matter how wonderful it may be, and especially if it is not what was expected. I have been struggling with the idea of "losing what I never had" with it seeming like our family is probably complete with 3 when my heart has always thought 4. As far as sisters go - I didn't have one, but it has been beyond incredible to watch my girls love each other so well.

  10. Yes. I totally get ALL of your stuff. I have three girls and two boys, and I think it stinks that the gender weighs on my side since my husband is the raddest ever and I'm tanking at most of this mom stuff. I stink at braiding hair, I show too much cleavage on accident, and I'd rather drink beer than hot tea. But my third and fourth babies are two years apart, A boy and girl, and they are the best buddies! The other girls are much older than my third girl, and so she gets left out of a lot of their fun. But my Ezra and Evelyn are like two peas in a pod. So, your boy might find that he has a fun play mate too. ;) For the LIFE of me I cannot get any of my actual accounts to log in on your blog. But I blog at www.audacitermatris.com